Dropping everything for a good cause
It’s the little things that count. That saying holds true for Pastor Lee Jong-rak, who built a “drop box” on the outer wall of his house to save neglected infants and also opened an orphanage to care for them.
Lee’s inspiring story is the focus of The Drop Box, a new documentary highlighting the plight of abandoned babies in South Korea, was fashioned with the creative input of students from three USC schools.
The Drop Box was not created for a class or academic credit. It was a passion project spearheaded by writer/director Brian Ivie from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His crew included Sarah Choi, Bryce Komae and Sam Jo from the USC Marshall School of Business, and Will Tober from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
“This movie was directed by a team,” Ivie said. “I can honestly go back through the movie and pinpoint which scenes or sequences belong to each team member.”
When Ivie told Choi about his idea for the film in 2011, Choi was instantly hooked.
“Everything aligned with my academic skills,” said Choi, whose team will submit the 72-minute documentary to several film festivals while seeking financing and distribution by U.S. production companies. “This international issue is something I was really drawn to.”
Choi, one of the producers, handled most of the business aspects of launching and shooting the film, including travel arrangements to Korea, acquisition of sponsorships, marketing and public relations.
She will also oversee the establishment of a nonprofit foundation to handle donations for an orphanage. Twenty children, many of them disabled, currently share a two-story home on the outskirts of Seoul. With hopes of expanding the orphanage, Lee purchased land to build a new house.
“Our immediate goal is to hopefully raise enough funds so we can help the kids and the pastor with the remodeling and furnishing of the new orphanage to better accommodate the needs of the children,” Choi said.
The nonprofit aspect of the project ties in with Choi’s work as a scholar at USC Marshall’s Society and Business Lab (SBL), which develops strategies to help solve global and social issues.
“SBL has given me a new perspective to see how I can incorporate aspects of business and the entertainment industry to foster positive impact,” she said.
Taking part in the documentary was also educational, Choi noted.
“Working with disabled kids in particular makes you see the world differently — there is so much that we take for granted,” she said. “Seeing that these children have no problems with life and seeing how the pastor overlooks all their flaws and loves them completely has taught me a lot about the world.”
Choi, a second-generation Korean-American born and raised in California, has traveled extensively as part of her USC Marshall experience, taking advantage of academic opportunities in Chile and China, as well as Hong Kong.
“As a business and cinematic arts student, Sarah combined her academic endeavors with her ability to speak the Korean language and ended up with the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Kim West, associate dean of USC Marshall’s undergraduate program.
“Sarah’s involvement in the making of The Drop Box is a wonderful example of how USC Marshall students use international opportunities to enhance their academic pursuits,” she added.
Choi, who has an interest in branding and marketing, is targeting a career in a social enterprise or nonprofit organization. However, she may take a few months to complete The Drop Box before beginning graduate studies.
In the meantime, she and Ivie recently traveled to Africa for a well-building project and to work on a promotional video for two nonprofit groups.
“I have been really lucky to practice my business skills in the film industry and in the real world,” Choi said.